On Thursday, May 16, 2024, WABE reported that a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by John Barrow, a former Democratic congressman running for a seat on the Georgia Supreme Court.

Barrow had claimed that the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission was unconstitutionally trying to restrict his speech on the issue of abortion during his campaign. However, U.S. District Judge Michael Brown ruled that Barrow did not have standing to sue. In his ruling, Brown stated that Barrow had chosen to publicly release a confidential letter he received from the commission. He also noted that Barrow had continued speaking publicly about abortion, showing that his speech was not truly being limited.

Barrow is running against Justice Andrew Pinson in the nonpartisan election for one of the seats on Georgia’s nine-justice highest court. The election is set for this upcoming Tuesday. Pinson was appointed to the court in 2022 by Republican Governor Brian Kemp. Incumbents in Georgia rarely lose reelection to the Supreme Court. Three other justices are running unopposed for new terms.

Facing an uphill battle against the incumbent Pinson, Barrow has centered his campaign strongly around the issue of abortion access. He believes Georgia’s state constitution guarantees a right to abortion that is at least as robust as what was provided under Roe v. Wade before its overturn in 2022. That Supreme Court decision allowed a 2019 Georgia law banning most abortions after around six weeks of pregnancy to go into effect.

While not as intensely contested as other state Supreme Court races, the level of attention and campaign funds in Georgia’s election has risen above normal for a judicial race. Governor Kemp and conservative groups are supporting Pinson, but abortion rights advocates have only endorsed Barrow without providing major financial backing. Kemp’s political organization has pledged to spend $500,000 on Pinson’s advertisements.

The commission had sent Barrow a letter on May 1st expressing concern that his statements may have violated judicial conduct rules regarding candidates committing to stances on issues likely to be litigated before the high court. A lawsuit challenging Georgia’s abortion ban is currently pending in a lower state court and could reach the Supreme Court.

Judge Brown found that Barrow was not near facing actual sanctions, but rather could have filed his suit confidentially to avoid criticism from Pinson’s campaign. In dismissing the suit, the judge determined Barrow publicized confidential details from the commission primarily as a “political stunt.”



Source: WABE